The D.C. police department will continue to give pregnancy tests to women applying to be police officers, but applicants will be told of the tests in the future, Chief Maurice T. Turner said yesterday.
Police denied that the routine pregnancy tests given over the Last two years were secret, saying that women would have been told of the tests if they had asked.
"It is true that female applicants are tested for pregnancy, but it is not done secretly," police officials said in a news release issued late last night. "In the event an applicant were to make an inquiry regarding any aspect of their medical examination, the clinic personnel readily responds to their concern."
Yesterday's policy change by Turner came in response to a Washington Post article that said secret pregnancy tests were administered routinely on urine samples that women candidates submitted for drug screening.
The women were aware of the drug screening, but were not told of the pregnancy test.
Officials with the D.C. Police and Fire Clinic in Southwest Washington said they halted the unannounced testing Tuesday after a woman employe of the clinic complained it testing was an invasion of privacy and demanded to see the policy governing it in writing.
In the statement, issued last night by department spokesman Capt. William White III, police said the pregnancy testing would be resumed because it is needed to protect the women and any unborn children they might be carrying.
The statement also denied that the testing violated women applicants' civil rights.
"The department might well be considered remiss in its responsibilities to the applicant if such a test was not given," the statement said, noting that police trainees must undergo self-defense training and can face life-threatening situations.
"The test is merely one of a battery of tests, such as blood work, hearing and vision given to determine physical fitness," the statement said.
In interviews this week, civil libertarians said the unannounced tests raised constitutional questions concerning sexual discrimination and an individual's right to privacy.
"This is one of the things that is a danger of the current drug testing craze because an employer who says he's going to test for drug use can also find out other things about a person, such as whether that person is pregnant, whether the person has a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis or AIDS and whether the person is taking medication under a psychiatrist's care, and all those things would be very invasive of a person's privacy," said Arthur Spitzer, director of the national capital area chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Police officials could not say how many women received the pregnancy test since November 1985, but said that during the last two years, 126 women have joined the 3,880-member force, which now counts about 525 women officers in its ranks.
The statement said of women who are found to be pregnant, "Their appointment will continue to be held in abeyance until such time as they are deemed able to fulfill the physical requirement of their employment."